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Posted on Wed, May 8, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

Open letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan: Michigan schools are at the breaking point

By Danielle Arndt

Education Secretary-Detroit-1.JPG

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, left center, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder stop at Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti Monday, May 6, 2013, to speak about investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten education.

Daniel Brenner |

A group of Michigan public school parents based in Ann Arbor issued an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Tuesday, following the secretary's visit to Ypsilanti Monday afternoon.

The letter was penned by Steven Norton, an Ann Arbor Public Schools resident, public education advocate and executive director of the Michigan Parents for Schools nonprofit organization. The letter was posted on the nonprofit's website.


Steven Norton

The organization is comprised of parents who are concerned about the funding problems that Michigan schools are facing. Duncan's stop at the Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti Monday helped kick off the federal government's push to provide incentives for early childhood education nationwide.

Duncan, who visited the school Monday with Gov. Rick Snyder, stressed the importance of high-quality pre-kindergarten education and increasing access to these programs, as well as teacher training for the programs.

Somewhat ironically, the school that hosted the secretary's visit is part of the Ypsilanti Public Schools, a district that will no longer exist as of July 1. Ypsilanti is merging with Willow Run Community Schools, another district operating with a deficit, due in part, local school officials say, to the state's underfunding of public education.

Norton and Michigan Parents for Schools ask Duncan to see what is really happening in Michigan schools. "Your calls for accountibility and equity have been used in our state as a cover to erode and defund public schools and to attack the very idea of public governance of public education," Norton writes.

The letter makes reference to reports from last month that a secret group that includes aides to Snyder is trying to create a lower-cost education model that uses a voucher-like funding mechanism. Snyder has said the work group is not an official government function, and he said he was not involved with it personally.

Read the complete letter to Duncan below or on the organization's website.

Dear Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of Michigan parents and others concerned about public education here, I would like to welcome you to our state. Michigan is home to some of the best ideas and programs in education as well as some of the most serious challenges our schools, and communities, face. We welcome your effort to learn more about the hopes we cherish and the obstacles we confront in our local efforts to educate our children.

Unfortunately, I fear that your tour may leave you with an incorrect impression of what is in fact happening in our state. The current direction of state policy is not to offer an excellent education to all children. Instead, key Michigan policy makers have adopted an extremely narrow and barren notion of "education" and have focused on how to deliver it at the lowest cost possible. These proposals take us in precisely the wrong direction.

A distorted vision for schools

The most recent example: Parents and concerned citizens across the state have been appalled by stories emerging from our state capital about a secret secret "skunk works" project to create bargain-basement schools. Their plan has two key parts: the first is a voucher-like debit card that students could use to "buy" bits of education here and there. Schools would become simply vendors. If a student "purchases" a bargain education, the balance on the card could be used for extras like sports fees, music lessons, and so on.

The other part of the plan is to create the value-priced school where students could find these "value menu" bargains. The skunk works group hopes to create schools that could operate with $2,000 less per pupil than the current minimum funding — but still allowing for vendors to make a profit.

As their documents make clear, the only real way to do this was to depend on fully online education, with a small number of teachers overseeing a large number of students in an internet-based program. What makes this so cheap, of course, is that much of the time students are interacting with canned videos and worksheets.

This "skunk works" group — including top advisers to Gov. Snyder, other government officials, former voucher school advocates, and online education vendors, has been working under the radar since December — using private emails. They explicitly excluded anyone who might argue that our local public school systems don't need to be tossed in the garbage.

Is this what education means these days? Watching videos on a computer and asking chat room questions of a teacher somewhere else who is managing 50, 70 or 100 other students? When do our children learn to think creatively or work in groups? How do they learn to get along with and even lead a group of people very different from themselves? How can a teacher figure out what might spark the interest or imagination of a child?

Our schools should do more than simply pour "stuff" into the heads of our children and call it education. Our young people need to be able to adjust to a changing and uncertain world. We're not just educating future workers, but also citizens and members of our communities. That is what we are working for in our state and what we wish for every American child.

Genuine education

As you said in a speech just one week ago: "Ultimately, a great education involves much more than teaching children simply to read, write, add, and subtract. It includes teaching them to think and write clearly, and to solve problems and work in teams. It includes teaching children to set goals, to persist in tasks, and to help them navigate the world."

I could not agree more. That is the reason why I am so glad that you will be visiting the Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti, home of the famed Perry Preschool Study and the HighScope early childhood education model, which grew out of that early work.

This is how the HighScope Educational Research Foundation describes the model developed in the Perry study and in wide use today:

"(A)dults encourage children to to make choices, solve problems, and engage in activities that contribute to their intellectual, social, and physical development. ... (Teachers) do not provide children with prescriptively sequenced lessons that cover a defined subject matter. Instead, they listen closely to children's plans and then actively work with them to extend their activities. ... Adults rarely ask questions merely to test children's grasp of letters, numbers, or colors. Instead, they ask for self-generated descriptions or ideas: What happened? How did you make that? Can you show me? Can you help another child?"

These kinds of ideas should be the foundation of our efforts. Instead, we are marching resolutely in the opposite direction.

All politics is local

Mr. Secretary, please be aware that what you say and do has consequences all the way down to the classroom. Sadly, those who wish to turn education into rote learning and remove the public from our public schools have been bending the Obama Administration's policy initiatives to their own agenda. Your calls for accountibility and equity have been used in our state as a cover to erode and defund public schools and to attack the very idea of public governance of public education. As you reflect on your visit here, I urge you to think about the reality of what is happening in Michigan schools and discount the highly scripted presentations developed for a press event.

Our schools are at the breaking point. We cannot afford to engage in make-believe.


Steven J. Norton

Executive Director of Michigan Parents for Schools

Michigan Parents for Schools is a non-profit advocacy group helping parents and others speak up in support of quality local public education.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


abdul matin

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 7:38 a.m.

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Sat, May 11, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Arne Duncan is the front man for the privatizers. You'll not be lent an ear from that office. Where the privatizers get their superintendents (including Patricia Green):


Sat, May 11, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

It's not just Michigan...................hello.........


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

Another open letter was penned at this resource: "Open Letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Governor Rick Snyder on visit Ypsilanti Public Schools Perry Child Development Center" ---

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Secret cabals to funnel tax dollars to for-profit corporations are inappropriate. Those aids are typically paid with our tax dollars. However, distance learning is a fact that must be embraced. The concept of bussing students everywhere, at great expense, for every single educational opportunity is completely antiquated and must change. The overhead in K-12 public schools is tremendous. Administration costs are too high. Taxpayers should not be funding sports programs and athletic fields. Changes must be made, but the process must be transparent.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

The only way to collapse American influence worldwide is to diminish its intellectual capability. America has many enemies, some foreign, some within, some we call we call friends.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Education is one thing the right and left should be able to agree on. If you buy into the notion that every child has the opportunity to do great things in his or her life with lots of hard work, that ONLY is possible with great public education. Opportunity cannot be a privilege of the wealthy. Of course the left should embrace legitimate changes to try to improve the quality of public education, but the right must realize that government spending on education is an investment. Spend less on education and you will spend more on prisons and welfare. And you don't begin the process of turning around failing schools by making the best teachers you have take a big pay cut. ' No one believes that moving toward internet-based education is really an attempt at improving education. It doesn't pass the smell test and is clearly an attempt to "cheap-out" on our responsibility to educate the next generation. Tea partiers shouldn't shill for personal responsibility, then try to weasel out of paying their fair share of taxes.

Charles Curtis

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 4:53 a.m.

People need to take a look at the issues here and dump all the emotion. The scare tactics, and fear mongers are the issue. Thats why nothing addresses the issues. It doesnt matter what party is in charge, the educational system by international measurements has declined since the fed govnm't needed to standardize education (DoE). Teaching all the same is our undoing. Lets go back to when different states/communities were allowed to teach what they felt was important. People would go or leave based on that. Kids are no longer taught critical thinking, how to listen, weigh views/opinions, and make a decision for themselves. The public schools just try turn out more sheep, just do and think what your told..."trust us". Where has that got us now?

Jay Thomas

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

Michigan had the largest drop in income of any state in American history (property values falling by half in some places). Did you really think it would have no effect on budgets? Let us not forget that Granholm started the budget cutting in education and even got rid of her own college aid plan. Eight years later and nothing to show for it (in fact much worse off by any objective measure). The good news is that things are now growing again and rising home prices will lead to more revenue for the schools and municipalities which depend upon it.

A Voice of Reason

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

According to the State of Michigan Filings, Michigan Parents for Schools has one person involved and it is Steve Norton. No income is reported, so I am not sure how this group is funded and where the other parents are? No board meetings, no board of director, etc. Seems fishy.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

There's nothing fishy about it. We are a registered Michigan non-profit corporation, and my name is on there simply as the "registered agent." Our articles of incorporation, and annual filings, are on the State of Michigan LARA site (though I'm having trouble viewing the online documents using their Java applet). We are funded in a very limited way, at the moment, with direct contributions from our board members. We do have a board of directors, which is listed on our web site and is part of our annual filings with LARA (though I can't tell if it shows up, since I can't view the documents). So what, exactly is fishy? Everyone knows exactly who I am and where we come from. Who are you?

Jay Thomas

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

One word: Absurd.

Basic Bob

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

the black helicopters are circling. extraterrestrials are sucking out our brains. when will it stop?

Linda Peck

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

I really hesitate to jump into this discussion because the temperature in this area is very hot. However, I will say that public schools are not meeting the needs of many parents and children all over the country, not just here in Washtenaw County. If the public schools are not able to compete with other choices available to parents and children, then they should have to downsize and adapt, just like other businesses do. I don't like subsidizing a system that is faulty, and then giving even more to keep it afloat because it is traditional, or because it has always been done this way.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

I know what you mean. I'd like to stop subsidizing the pot-hole roads that need fixing too. (Someone needs to invent a sarcasm font.)


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

Linda, you stated what I believe also! Thanks for putting into words what I could not.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

Thank you, Steve, for so eloquently expressing what is best for Ann Arbor schools, our kids, and the community itself. Education is the very best investment we can make for our children as a community. When our kids have the best education possible, we all benefit. Many people have moved to this area because of our tremendous public schools. With the University of Michigan in our midst, we have attracted the brightest minds and most talented scholars from across the country and around the globe. Let's build on our strengths and ensure that our kids have the brightest futures possible. A big step towards this is to continue to offer a 7th hour in high school in order to keep music education possible for students for all four years of high school.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

Teachers only work 40 hours per week and 40 weeks per year? Are you serious? I am a teacher. I work until 7:00 p.m. every night and 8 hours on Saturday. I often work from 10:00 a.m. until midnight when I have to grade 180 essays. I have 36 kids in each of my 5 classes. I can barely keep up with my grading working those hours. I take Sunday off ---- even if I haven't finished grading assignments. If I don't, my stress level is off the charts and I get sick. Oh --- I also chaperone at homecoming and prom, and attend my students plays and sports events. I also make time to counsel with my students and I tutor them free after school 4 days a week from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Ah, yes ---- another thing --- I spend most of my summer creating lesson plans for the next year --- and most of my "vacations" (which I don't get paid for) during the year are spent grading papers. Another thing --- I have students from such dysfuntional homes that I often have to call child protective services. I buy my own classroom supplies to the tune of $2, 500.00 per year. I have, on occasion, bought clothes for my students. I do not get free health care. I pay for it. One last thing --- I have a doctorate degree. In spite of all this, I still love kids and am passionate about teaching them. So, gee, I guess I don't really do all that much. I have a pretty easy job.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

OK, so here's the question that no one is asking: Why are administrators getting a free pass on this . . . . or, why is no one questioning where administrators are in this equation? It's almost like they're the stealth in the public's eyes. People . . . administrators can get rid of bad teachers . . . . now much more easily than before. So Judy - I'd much rather you complain that administrators aren't doing their jobs than chirp to the tired "teachers are to blame" chorus. (And, by the way, the private sector isn't as wonderful as you claim, either. My experiences with AT&T, Comcast, B of A and Kroger have sucked big time this week.)

A Voice of Reason

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

Lightlee, you deserve to make more that the teacher who does not even have a lesson plan for the sub the next day or for the week. This is where parents have the problem. There are teachers who deserved way more than we are paying them and those who need to be fired. When criticism are made about teachers, it is directed toward the deadwood. A few of my children attended private school and the teachers work this hard, have to run a sport or after school activity and manages very aggressive families that do not settle for anything less than perfection for their students. They are burned out too. You should talk to the PTO for support so you do not need to purchase your own supplies and there is money to support students in need.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

As a "good" teacher, than you are worth your weight in gold, with that being said do all teachers work as hard as you do? I would say "no". How many in private business work as many hours as you do " a lot". My daughter had some of those teachers who did not work as hard as you, sending hours of homework home for me to do with her each week while rewarding the class on Friday's with movies for 2 hours, so they could do the next week lesson plans and who refused to see me after 4:00pm. That is when I chose to take her to a charter school. My point is, local school boards spend the money the state gives them and they make local policies parents should have the choice of where their child/children go to school. Thanks for what you do!


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Gotta love that GOP or TGOP tea party mentality, yank dollars away from education and then cry it's not working. We don't we just privatize Lansing, we should have the option to hire better politicians for less money.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I read the average, Teachers in Michigan start at $39,540 and top out at $66,482 after many years of increases," teachers also work an average of 40 weeks a year, with full benefits and retirement accounts. How many private industry jobs work an average of 40 weeks a year, with full benefits and retirement accounts? Most private industry employees work 50 to 52 weeks a year, no benefits and no retirement accounts, or some are lucky to 2 weeks paid vacation, get partial benefits and fund their own 401K's.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

Believe me I do not work just 40 week a year. I come into work every Sunday. On Saturdays I do school work at home. I don't leave during the school week until 6:30 every night. And then I do additional work at home in the evening. I come into to school over Thanksgiving break, Christmas break and Easter break. I come in every day in August to get my room set up. I'm not complaining--this is what it takes to be prepared. Just tired of hearing we only work 40 weeks a year.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

SemperFi, My guess is no one forces a teacher to be a teacher, if you are not up to doing the job than don't get in the field. As far as I know a teacher should of known what the hours and pay was before getting out of college is my point, so why complain about it now.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

Have you ever tried to interact with 120 teenagers a day and try to get them all to learn something as basic as the Bill Of Rights? Please try to walk in their shoes before you condemn their profession.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

How much is the average teacher able to teach in the average classroom in 50 to 55 minutes that a student cannot learn online in that same time frame? Many middle school and high school students may learn more with online classes than they do in a classroom of 25 or more students. Is this not how most college and universities have been teaching for years now? Some master degrees are totally online, with students only coming together in a classroom 2 or 3 times if at all. Young people today seem to always be on their computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, so why on have them take classes this way. Like phone landlines to cellphones things change, it is time to look at how we educate our young people, too.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

Oh yes, let's remove any kind of person-to-person interaction from the education process because it's easier to learn in a vacuum. Please note the degree of sarcasm, which is something you would learn in a classroom, but not on-line.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

I don't recommend cutting funding for schools. We need to fix them. However, Michigan spends a higher percentage of total state personal income on public schools than every state in the union except Wyoming and Vermont. We don't have a funding issue. What we have lacked for years is the willingness to completely reexamine how we are delivering education to our children. Outcomes for our children are all that should matter. Period. Anyone, including Mr. Norton, who argue against attempts to reexamine how we educate our children, are protecting a status quo that is failing our children. Show me a model that is producing far better outcomes and I will happily invest in it. Reject any attempts at change and I will challenge your motives.

G. Orwell

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

To those of you that blame Gov. Snyder for all the ills of the public school system, you are dillusional. The problems with the educational system has existed for a very long time and now that the funds are limited to run the schools, it is compounding the problems. The problem is with both Republican and Democrat administrations. Our government is the problem.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

Get ready for some more defunding of our public schools from our current state leaders(?)! The Republican House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on Tuesday sent HB 4571 & 4572 to the house for a vote that will eliminate sales tax on gasoline and aviation fuel. That will directly cut $825.1 million from our kids schools. Republican leadership is suggesting that they will fill this nearly $1 billion hole by asking Michigan voters to raise taxes on themselves by voting for a 1% increase in the general sales tax.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

SemperFi - I followed your links, read the background briefs and still disagree with you. Sorry. As I read the bills (and I am not a lawyer) they move the tax to the wholesale level and away from the retail level, there is a "Package" of bills, each does one thing. As far as I can tell, Governor Snyder will only sign them as a package, based on his comments on the issue. I am not going to fret about it right now. I have contacted my representative in Lansing on the issue. I hope you have too. The only right way to do this is as a package.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

DonBee, there is nothing in this bill about moving collection of taxes. It is out and out a repeal of sales tax for a specific group. The "revenue generated" portion they refer to is not written into the bill and a separate bill would have to be written and passed through the same group that has pledged to cut taxes. The 2nd part won't happen, so it's a loss of revenue of $1.077 billion of which the School Aid Fund gets hit for $770 million. I'm happy to provide additional info. You can find information on any house or senate bill by going to the MI house or senate web sites. For the fiscal portion of this bill to which I referred go to: you will note that the Republican led committee chose the option (#3) that most impacted the School Aid Fund. HB 4539 repeals the tax on gasoline. HB 4571 changes the av fuel sales tax from 3 cents to 4, then HB 4572 repeals the av fuel sales tax. A 3rd bill HB 4677 would have replaced the School Aid Funds, but the Republican led committee decided to separate the bills, never voted on it, and so it never left committee, therefore a loss of school funding.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

SemperFi - As I read the bill - it moves collection from the retailer to the wholesaler. This removes a number of ways to get around the sales tax (e.g. farm and business based storage tanks, private fueling facilities at the auto plants for company cars, etc.) I see this as raising as much or more revenue. I don't see where the money from the 2 percent of the sales tax (2 of 6) is going to not go to the schools. Can you give me a link to that bill please?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

Secret plan with vouchers for education? What is wrong with the the GOP. Why don't they just douse us all with gasoline and light the match already. They must be growing tired... it's taking so long to kill the middle class...

Rick Stevens

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

Part of the grand plan of the GOP: less educated voters who are more easily lied to and misled. Who will work for less and less without realizing they're become serfs to the rich (like Snyder and his buddies). The GOP is afraid of education and science so it's time to convert both to 'work skills' instead of critical thinking skills. No need to think, just work for less and don't reflect on what is going on. The final nail in the coffin of the American Middle Class.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

Mr. Stevens - Given state of Detroit schools, one would think that all the people in Detroit would vote for the GOP based on your comment.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

Under Snyder and his buddies, public education and urban governments have become under siege. By he time he gets of office, hopefully via the voters in 2014, the public school system may well be a voucher system and urban governments caretaker entities, both for profit.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

Yes things were SO much better when Granholm would just borrow stimulus money and we didn't have to worry about fixing budgets and funding future needs. Ahh yes those were the good old days. But now our kids are saddled with 16 trillion in debt and no REAL ideas on how our kids are going to pay it off. Yep those were the days!

G. Orwell

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

This is what happens when you have a centralized federally controlled school system. Is it possible the federal government does not want our children to learn and think for themselves? We need to abolish the Department of Education and let the states and parents like Mr. Norton to run the schools. Ever since the D of E was created, it has been all down hill for the US education system.

G. Orwell

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

Even better, let counties run the school systems. More local the better where parents have more input and control over what and how children are taught. As it is today, the public school system is nothing more than an indoctrination mechanism for the federal government. Why do you think the Department of Ed was created? The D of E has not failed, they have succeeded.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

Why, why would a government that runs on having a better government that listens to the "will of The People" have secret group meetings that includes ZERO education experts? Could it be because they are more interested in ideology than results? Smells skunky to me. Remember, the school the governor sends HIS kids to wants MORE THAN $20,000 a year/student, they claim that is not enough to supply a quality education. But, somehow, regular Joes are supposed to give their kids a leg up on 10% of that? Once again the GOP has cut and cut and cut, now they say "Look how bad our system is!" And of course, they blame it all on teachers, for being greedy and wanting a decent salary and to be able to retire.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

It drives me nuts every time I hear people criticize the governor for "sending his kids to private schools". Do you think he orders his daughters to go to Greenhills and neither his daughters nor his wife have any say in the matter? His son went to Huron while Rick was more than capable of affording to send him to private school. How do you think his daughters feel when they hear "Your dad is a terrible person because he sends you to private school"? There are infinite numbers of reasons why his daughters would go to private school. Maybe that's where her best friends go to school, it's closer to their house, they have friends on the faculty, it's smaller and she doesn't have to feel as pressured or in the spotlight as she would in a school with over 2000 kids in a city that overwhelmingly voted against him and whose parents go on and write vicious personal attacks on her family.... With all the hate that spews towards the governor and his family on here, he'd likely need to hire a personal bodyguard for his daughter if she went to an AAPS high school and cost them even more than tuition at Greenhills. If I were any sort of public figure and could afford to, I would definitely put my kids in a smaller private school to keep them out of the spotlight. Had his daughter gone to public school I doubt it would have changed any of his actions as governor regarding education. He's a former accountant, is it that hard for people to believe that he would prioritize the state's financial position over teacher salaries? Regardless of whether he's right or wrong to do so, he's an accountant for Christ's sake, can't you at least consider that he has good intentions and is doing what he thinks is best for the state, even if he's wrong and leave his daughters out of it? And one more time just in case anyone missed it, his son went to public school! This fact seems to be omitted every time it's mentioned that his daughter goes to private school.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

isn't that what a free country is about? sending your kids to the school you choose to send them too? What is wrong with that? As long as your playing this game.. what about the Obama children what school do they go to? it costs $34,268. a year per child. Granholms [when they lived here] where did they go? okay how about Kilpatricks? I could go on and on but...


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

wow, still cannot apologies!


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

"Remember, the school the governor sends HIS kids to a school that wants MORE THAN $20,000..."


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

Thank you Steve.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:27 a.m.

Open letter to parents: YOU decided to have children. Please do NOT expect the rest of us to carry your responsibility. Your CHILD = Your COST. Somehow in this misguided Liberal world we live in, the "village" is expected to pay for YOUR bad decisions. The cost of eduction in this State is and has been trending upward, yet we have some of the poorest MEAP scores in the country. Throwing GOOD money at BAD money will not remedy anything. Sincerely, frustrated taxpayer who has had enough!


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

@JBK Oh yes you would rather pay for them in higher costs to everyone...short sighted foolish thinking


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:30 a.m.

What if your parents felt like you do? Really?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

JBK, I'm sure you will promptly be refunding the government all the money that was spent educating you. We appreciate you putting your money where your mouth is.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Actually clownfish, It was private education that has worked to create a great country. Before there was public education in America, there was private education. Once the government stepped into education to make it more standardized, etc it has been going downhill ever since.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

Your safety, security, and economy rests on an educated populous. Our children are everyone's investment.

Freight Train

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

@JBK. Clearly you are misinformed. The MEAP is a state distributed test. The "M" in MEAP stands for Michigan. So we really have the poorest MEAP scores in the country? Snyder has begun de-funding public education and he clearly has an agenda. Are the schools in Ann Arbor monetarily mismanaged? I think so, but cutting 1.8 Billion dollars from education and giving it to business (read for profit schools) will do nothing but create a more severe problem.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Maybe because public education has worked to create a great country? Can you show us an example of a thriving democracy that has no public education system? And maybe a nap?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

In other words: "I hate children and they're all the liberals' fault."


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

Snyder has been a disaster for this state . . . . . period. Obama has been a disaster for this country . . . . . period.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

Ordmad, Can you please cite your statement/facts that Obama dug us out of the massive debt? Under Obama our debt has risen by $6 trillion in just 4 years. The largest increase in history! Under Bush debt increased $4.9 trillion over 8 years. We have been throwing more money at schools over the years and it hasn't helped. We need alternatives that work.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Right -- he just lead the country while we dug out of the massive debt and ugly wars left behind by his predecessor. Facts first, assertions second.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

You can always move


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:40 a.m.

Thank you, Mr. Norton, for everything that you do. Please note that Mr. Norton is not a teacher or union member. He is a parent and taxpayer. I too am a non-teacher parent and taxpayer, and he certainly speaks for me. Snyder has been a disaster for this states education policy. The rich, creative, innovative, project based education that Snyder and Obama chose for their kids..... Just imagine what society could look like if every child got that. Online classes for the masses? Gross.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

A2anon, thank you for your kind words. DonBee - As a rule, I try to avoid commenting here anymore. However, you make insinuations about my "background" that are not, and cannot be, backed up by facts. The only school which has ever paid me for anything - besides my time as a grad student at UM - is the wonderful Community Day Care and Preschool here in Ann Arbor, which I strongly support and for which I did some web development and communications work some years ago. My clients are like them: small to medium sized nonprofits and businesses. My other work on school issues, including my involvement in millage campaigns, has been purely as a volunteer (though I admit that this has been a strain on my family). I challenge you to point to any actual evidence that indicates otherwise. I also challenge you to use your real name and identify your background before casting aspersions on others.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

My comment on Mr. Norton's background which he discussed on this site was removed. Before you take the comment above at face value, do a little googling on Mr. Norton and his business.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

Allow me to give you the shortened version of Mr. Norton's letter... "Dear Mr. Secretary: You need to eliminate all choice and competition in education. You need to eliminate accountability. You need to give teachers unions more money. That's what you need to do. More money for teachers. That will solve everything. More money for teachers. More money. More money. Sincerely, Steven J. Norton"


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

grye, "Teachers start at $39,540 and top out at $66,482 after many years of increases," teachers also work an average of 40 weeks a year or less, with full benefits and retirement accounts. How many private industry jobs work an average of 40 weeks a year, with full benefits and retirement accounts? Most private industry employees work 50 to 52 weeks a year, no benefits and no retirement accounts, or some are lucky to 2 weeks paid vacation, get partial benefits and fund their own 401K's.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

You certainly have no idea that the teachers are not the problem. The State has decreased the amount of funds to the school systems without providing any guidance of assistance in cutting costs. Teachers only want to do their jobs and be paid a fair wage / benefits. Their salaries are much lower than most other private industry jobs based upon the education level required for the position. Most of the time, only the highest salary levels are denounced as if all teachers were making that salary. In reality, teachers start at $39,540 and top out at $66,482 after many years of increases. You can earn more if you obtain advanced degrees. Do you really think this is out of line based upon the job requirements (managing 150 kids every day, putting together multiple programs that will hopefully educate the students, dealing with parents and administration staff, ensuring additional work now required by the State is completed)? This is a bargain. if you want to pay less and provide no benefits, you'll get the quality you didn't want.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:09 a.m.

Teachers don't want MORE money. We just don't want our schools to keep getting LESS money every year. This is a really ignorant comment that shows you haven't been paying attention.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

ROME (AP) — The Obama administration is providing $100 million in new Syria aid, U.S. officials said Wednesday, but the money is for humanitarian purposes only and not linked to any decision on arming Syrian rebels. Along with Egypt and a couple of other countries in the last couple of months more than $500 million have been given to humanitarian purposes.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

I agree with this one totally. Stop foreign aide and start spending here at home. These countries are only using the money to go against the US. If we make them reliable unto to themselves then maybe other countries would stop laughing at us behind our backs.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Stop funding Israel to the tune of $2.775 billion in 2010, $3 billion in 2011, $3.07 billion in 2012 (and $3.15 billion per year from 2013-2018) Yes thats billion with a B


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Defund schools ???? it's defund unions...the loudest squeals come from the fattest pigs....


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

DonBee- Please cite your sources for your figures. According to the Michigan Department of Education, Ann Arbor Schools receives a foundation allowance of $9040 per student. This includes the school portion of the property taxes. While I know there are additional revenue sources, most of that money is directed towards specific programs (Special Education) and cannot be used for general education purposes. Please explain where the additional $4960 per student is coming from. Go to the bottom of page 12 of this pdf. Ann Arbor is fifth from the bottom.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

That makes no sense. Do you divide a Mcdonald's manager's salary by how many people they serve? Do you divide a nurse's salary by how many patients they see? It's a salary not an hourly income. It's either a profession or it's not a profession, you can't pick and choose when its convenient to call it a "profession". And as a side note, I have no problem with teacher's salaries currently, I just wish there was an efficient way to weed out the non-performing ones, or for example the high school english teacher who hasn't been there all year!


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

I know where the loudest squeals come from around here, and it is not from teachers.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Don Bee, you need to divide the $104,000 teacher cost by 5 because that's how many classes they have. Oh yeah, and most classes now have more than 25 students.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Andrew - Obviously you are not paying attention, only 1 time since 1994 has the Ann Arbor Public Schools seen a decrease in total revenue. In every other year the total has increased. This budget cutting dance that is going on at AAPS this year, is because revenue did not grow enough to keep up with the projections - not because it decreased. The budget is designed with the idea that revenue will increase by 5 percent annually in the local schools. Right now AAPS spends more than $14,000 per student per year. That means a classroom of 25 children is supported by $350,000. Now $104,000 is the cost to the district of the teacher. Where does the other $246,000 go?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:12 a.m.

Just another ignorant comment from someone who clearly isn't paying attention. We need to stop cutting funding for our schools. This has nothing to do with unions.

Silly Sally

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

During one of the School Boards forums, someone said that "much of our monetary problems would be gone if only we had more students enrolled. Why do parents send their children elsewhere when we have such good schools here?" The answer is simple, these parents do not want schools that "simply pour "stuff" into the heads of our children that are beliefs that these parents strongly disagree with, both morally and politically. Until Boards of education learn this, and change their ways, they will need to downsize, which will be hard with large built up buildings already. Rubbers on bananas for middle school students? Algore's movie is gospel? King Obama?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

Plus a good education keeps you from growing up to be silly.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

There is mixed evidence about the effects of abstinence-only education. Overall, studies find no significant change to adolescents' frequency of sex, incidence of unprotected sex, number of partners, sexual initiation, HIV and STI incidence, or condom use as a result of abstinence-only education (Cochrane-Underhill 2007, CG-HIV/AIDS-Interventions for adolescents). Some studies find that abstinence-only education may decrease adolescents' sexual activity, frequency of sex (CG-HIV/AIDS-Interventions for adolescents), and number of sexual partners (Jemmott 2010). However, these decreases can often be accompanied by increases in pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infection (CG-HIV/AIDS-Interventions for adolescents). The two states with the highest rates of teen pregnancies are Mississippi and New Mexico. Neither state requires that sex ed be taught in schools. Mississippi law stipulates that when sexual education is taught, that abstinence be the main method of contraception proscribed by educators, whereas New Mexico has no rules about reproductive health criteria at all. The state with the lowest rate of teen pregnancies is New Hampshire, which requires comprehensive sex ed in schools that includes information about condoms and other forms of birth control in addition to abstinence.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

Teaching birth control has this neat function, it reduces teen pregnancy! The majority of U.S. schools (66%) provide information about contraception, such as condoms and birth control pills, as well as about other practices that fall in the safer-sex category. However, this does not mean that the benefits of abstinence are not stressed in these programs or that they take a backseat. On the contrary, the majority of schools that include contraception information in their sex-ed curricula promote abstinence as "the preferred option," the Guttmacher Institute reports. And according to surveys reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 82% of parents who have children 18 and younger support schools that teach this "comprehensive" approach (the term used by educators and legislators). by definition, abstinence works only when teens are sexually inactive -- without exception. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that one-fourth of 15-year-olds have had sexual intercourse at least once, and more than half of 17-year-olds are sexually active The risks are even more startling: A sexually active teenage girl who has sex without contraception has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year, according to the Institute. Just as disturbing is that in a single act of vaginal intercourse with an infected male partner, a female teenager has a 30% risk of contracting genital herpes, a 50% chance of contracting gonorrhea, and a 1 in 100 chance of acquiring HIV. -WEBMD.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

I know just the place you are looking for - Louisiana.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:03 a.m.

That's right, pour Crackpot Science like the world was created 6000 years ago, there is no such thing as man made global warming, and that women should not be taught anything about their bodies except abstaining from sex. Who cares about teaching the truth, just pour only information that parents agree with. Maybe we should stop education at the 8th grade like the right wing Islamists want. I will bet that AA won't see any more Merit Scholarships if we take Sally's advice.